The second of last week's 1-2 punch unveiling of ultra-pricey condo developments by celebrity architects -- which included OMA's 23 E. 22nd St. -- is 56 Leonard Street by Herzog & de Meuron. Unlike OMA, the Swiss duo has already completed a buiding (not just interiors) in Manhattan, the much lauded 40 Bond. Of course, the differences do not end there.
[image description | image source]
The design for the 57-story tower in Lower Manhattan -- located near the bunkered AT&T Long Lines Building -- is described by the architects as "houses stacked in the sky," 145 of them, to be exact, ranging in price from $3.5 to $33 (yes, 33) million. The typically stacked floors are shifted at the base and top of the tower to create large terraces for the higher-priced units. Balconies are used for the floors in between.
Renderings of the Jenga-esque design can best be described as messy, unfortunately. Any coherent image for the building's skyline presence is eschewed in favor of an inside-out strategy's outcome. Herzog & de Meuron have ditched the clarity of 40 Bond's articulated frame and adopted a diagram of shifted floors, something that works well at the scale of the building's surroundings...
...but not at 600+
A sculpture by Anish Kapoor rounds out the project's "flourishes." It's location and shape -- at grade and apparently squashed by the building above -- clearly puts architecture in the oppressor role over art, something surprising from the Swiss duo who work with artists in fairly atypical ways. Here, art appears to be an afterthought, a reconsideration of Modernist plaza art that is different only in its location and proximity to its subservient building.
Ultimately the sculpture comes across as a small concession to the public that can't afford or experience the luxury within. The Cloud Gate-esque object reflects back a warped view of the surroundings and passers-by, the antithesis of the Modernist boxes in the sky above.